The Obama administration and HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius have had 3-1/2 years to get ready for Obamacare's rollout. Though we have yet to learn all of the gory details, America already knows what an unmitigated disaster HealthCare.gov has been thus far. But at least one could argue (not successfully, in my opinion, but work with me on this) that "programmming is hard."
That's not the case with another aspect of Obamacare implementation, namely the handling of exemptions from the individual mandate. The forms involved, the generation of which should have been a relative breeze and which obviously should have been ready eons ago, are at least a month away. Instead of describing this situation as yet another miserable failure, Kyle Cheney at the Politico, perhaps signaling to other establishment press outlets that they shouldn't consider this a big deal (though it clearly is), merely characterized it as "another big hurdle," and kept "individual mandate" out of his headline. Excerpts follow the jump (HT to a frequent emailer; bolds are mine):
Exemptions pose another big hurdle for Obamacare
Think you’re exempt from Obamacare’s individual mandate? Good luck proving it.
The health law’s least popular component — the requirement to obtain insurance or face a tax penalty — also features a lengthy list of exceptions for people facing certain hardships like foreclosure, domestic violence or homelessness. Members of certain religious sects or Native American tribes also are exempt.
But if the online system for getting into Obamacare coverage is rickety, the system for getting out of the mandate doesn’t even exist yet. HHS says it will take another month at least for the administration to finalize the forms.
That would make it mid-November. Being generous to a fault with government work, that really means "after Thanksgiving," i.e., December 2 or later.
It should be obvious by now that millions of people who might be exempt from the individual mandate are not going to know for sure until sometime in 2014, even though the individual mandate's effective date is supposed to go into effect on January 1. Even if they get and complete the form on time, they certainly won't get a determination for weeks, if not months.
The Obama administration estimates that as many as 12 million people will seek exemptions through the federal enrollment system. But if they try now through HealthCare.gov, a customer service representative will tell them that applications aren’t available.
To make it even more confusing, not everyone who is exempt from the mandate will have to prove it via the exchange. Millions of people will have straightforward income-related exemptions — for example, low-income people in states that aren’t expanding Medicaid. Their exempt status will get wrapped into their annual tax filing.
But for those who want to start the exemption process online — or who incorrectly think they have to purchase health insurance or be fined despite their personal circumstances — the lack of a pathway has been another example that critics cite about how the White House bungled the rollout.
It isn't just "critics" who can cite this as evidence of bungling, Kyle. It's anyone with a brain.
Now let's move on to Kyle's attempt at a cop-out:
There’s another political impact: Some of the people making headlines with critical claims of huge premium spikes and unaffordable policies under Obamacare may actually turn out to be eligible for hardship or affordability exemptions — or may be eligible for a slimmed-down catastrophic coverage plan. But they can’t know for sure until they apply.
Nice try, Kyle. No sale. It should be clear that the vast majority of those who are screaming about hikes of 300% or more have been middle- and and upper middle-income individuals and families. Except in the rarest of circumstances, they aren't going to get "affordability" exemptions. Additionally, as I understand it (I can't prove it because I'm not going to give my life over to trying to get into HealthCare.gov), the "slimmed-down catastrophic" plans are already present as options on the HealthCare.gov web site.
One wonders how many fiascos it will take before even hardened Obamacare supporters start begging the administration to delay this madness. That process won't happen as quickly as it should if reporters like Kyle Cheney describe something which acknowledged "doesn't even exist yet" as just "another big hurdle"
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.